Margarito Hand Wrap Controversy: Boxing Fans and the Rush to Judgment

Antonio MargaritoBy Zachary Q. Daniels: The recent controversy over potentially illegal substances in Antonio Margarito’s hand wraps prior to his fight with Shane Mosley has pointed out a disturbing tendency among boxing fans - the rush to judgment. While this phenomenon is not exclusive to boxing - unproven accusations of steroid use for example have harmed the reputations of several major baseball players - it is disturbing wherever it occurs. At least in the United States, people are supposed to be entitled to the presumption of innocence. That is, that until concrete proof is discovered, those accused of misconduct should be assumed to be innocent of such wrongdoing.

That has not been the case, unfortunately, in this recent incident with Margarito’s hand-wraps. As articles on this and other websites demonstrate, not only is an assumption of guilt without evidence been made regarding foreign substances in the hand-wraps in this fight - wild and unfounded accusations are made regarding illegal substances being in his hand-wraps in previous fights - something for which there is no evidence whatsoever. HBO commentator Jim Lampley irresponsibly initiated this line of baseless speculation with his suggestion that this somehow calls into question Margarito’s victory over Miguel Cotto, implying that because Margarito’s hand wraps were confiscated for analysis prior to the Mosley fight, this somehow meant he had done it in other fights, when there was not even a shred of proof for such a scurrilous accusation. This, unfortunately, has set the tone for the attitude of many others in the boxing community who have continued to question Margarito’s victories in prior fights.

All of this is being done before there is even any clear evidence that there was something in Margarito’s hand wraps in the Mosley fight. The only “evidence” that appears to be available is the visual observations made by Mosley’s trainer Nazim Richardson, which then lead to officials from the California commission removing the hand wraps for analysis. That’s it!! No definitive tests, no chemical analysis, no objective proof - just the accusations of the opponent’s trainer!! And based on all this boxing fans and even journalists are not only assuming guilt in this case, but extending that to other fights where no one ever even made an accusation at the time those fights occurred, or at any time prior to the recent incident in the Mosley fight.

Unfortunately, this appears to be an all-too-common practice in the sports world today. As indicated, this tendency to jump to conclusions without clear evidence is not solely confined to boxing. Athletes are frequently presumed guilty where there is no definitive evidence proving that they engaged in any sort of illegal actions. It leads one to wonder to what degree people are being taught basic principles of justice. Where a simple accusation, without proof, can be used to presume guilt, it undermines basic rights and liberties to which all who are accused should be provided.

The Margarito hand wrap controversy, and similar incidents, have disturbing parallels to 17th century witch hunts, where a mere accusation was enough to convict in the public mind. Even worse, in this case, an accusation in a single instance - one fight - is being used to call into question a man’s entire career. This is, pure and simple, unjust and wrong. Without clear proof, Margarito and his camp should be regarded as innocent, and the attitude should be one of great scepticism regarding the accusations made by an opponent’s trainer.

Now, it may indeed turn out that a chemical analysis shows that there was a foreign substance in Margarito’s hand wraps. If that is the case, he and his team should be properly punished according to the rules of the California State Athletic Commission. But even if this proof does emerge with regard to the hand wraps in the Mosley fight, this will still not provide evidence that warrants accusations that there were foreign substances in his hand wraps in any prior fight. Unless tests can be done to actually prove violations in prior fights, such actions will remain in the realm of the wild and irresponsible accusations that Lampley engaged in the night of the Mosley fight.

Until the California commission’s investigation is completed, and definitive proof produced, responsible members of the boxing community should cease and desist from assuming that proof has somehow already been obtained. And if the accusations in the Mosley fight are indeed proven, people need to remember that this does not prove that it occurred in other fights. Unless definitive evidence emerges that illegal substances were present in prior fights, Margarito and his camp should be assumed to have done nothing wrong, and those victories should not be irresponsibly called into question. Furthermore, if Margarito is cleared of wrongdoing in the Mosley fight, that should be the end of the matter. The evidence is not yet in - boxing fans should not rush to judgment.

This article also appears on The Mushroom Mag:

Article posted on 28.01.2009

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